Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Case for Part 3 in 2D

Many moons ago, a film came around that revolutionised cinema. It was a great story with mass appeal, using computer generated images to create a magical world of toys and heroes and villains. And now, many moons later, it is back.

While series like Shrek have floundered, the original two Toy Story movies were both excellent and Pixar seemed happy enough to let those movies stand. Well, for a while at least, because now, there is third Toy Story film.

I decided not to go and see the 3D version. Really, 3D for me is a "luxury" rather than a necessity, and considering the price of a 3D session is around $20, and I would rather the story blow me away than the visuals, I was more than happy to go see a 2 dimension only version - though this had to wait until a weekend, the only screenings on week nights were in 3D. And luckily, the third Toy Story film was brilliant on so many levels, I didn't need that 3rd dimensional trickery to keep me entertained.

As the session was at midday and there were few attendees, the film was fairly quiet, but I imagined that, at a fuller session populated with more adults than children, some of the popular culture references and knowing nudges would have been greeted with loud laughter. As it was, Barbie beating the bimbo blonde stereotype and standing up for democracy with a very impassioned and intellectual argument had me smiling to myself, as did some of Ken's more dated wardrobe items.

But then you don't need to have a mild knowledge of history or sociological stereotypes to appreciate what is going on. The main action of the film, and there is a lot of it (2 hours worth), is simple and pleasurable enough for all
to enjoy.

As years have passed since the last film, so have times changed in the world of our heroes. Bo Peep is gone, but the core cast of plastic characters is there (of course) as well as dinosaur, piggy bank Cliff, the cute Martians ("the
Claw!"), the potato heads and slinky. However, these stalwarts are now on the brink of losing their cherished place in Andy's life, as the boy gets ready to go to college and leave his childhood behind. Will they be sent to the attic
(not the Attic of Dollhouse lore, but a far more benign "waiting" room), or given away to charity, or (the hell of the toy world) thrown out?

It's a roller coaster run of thrills and spills that doesn't let up in fun and excitement - until the final few scenes anyway, where decisions are made and things change. The end was quite touching (thankfully though it was nowhere
near as heart-wrenching as the opening montage of Up! which had me bawling like a baby), but the film makers were kind enough to let the film end on a laugh or seven to give me time to wipe the odd tear from my eye.

It was just a pity such a brilliant movie was prefaced by what must be the lamest and unfunny Pixar "short" I think I have ever seen. Possibly it was the addition of some hand-animated aspects that jarred so much, but I liked that
one not at all. So I will ignore it in my verdict.

Verdict: Overall, Toy Story 3 is a very satisfying conclusion to what has been a great run of movies. Good on you Pixar! 9 Toys out of 10.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Case for Kiwis in Wolves Clothing

Is it just me, or are there quite a few younger, slimmer guys out there wearing knee-length jean shorts these days?

Wandering around Wellington and around the Hutts, as I am occasionally wont to do, I have noted that the cold weather does not stop some people from exposing their calves to the elements in what I imagine is a nod to Twilight fashion. Yes, I am assuming here that the local boys are emulating their favourite Twilight team, the Wolf Pack.

As much as vampires may be super popular at the moment, it is perhaps not surprising that male New Zealand youth is following the trend set down by the more rugged supernatural posse out there. Dressing like creatures of the night is probably more gothic than boys bred on macho Rexona antiperspirant advertisements would really lean towards, so the allure of the shirt-averse hard men of the forest is not that surprising.

The next step will be to see how this trend translates into summer weather. Will we have hordes of half naked young men (with tattoos too, to complete the look) prowling the shopping districts? Only time – and some decent weather – will tell.

Verdict: Keep an eye out – and a running tally of – these guys and lets see how many Twihard young males there really are out there. 3 fashionistos out of 5.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Case for the Blue Pill

Odd to see a movie that I am sure I have seen before, but know that I have not.

I mean, Inception's basic ideas seem very similar to the Matrix. It's not trying so hard to go for the bondage/trenchcoat chic of that ultimately disappointing franchise. There are no Messianic complexes (well, not really).

And the cast is decidedly A list with Leonardo DiCaprio's furrowed brow and Joseph Gordon Lovett's cool detachment instead of some Australians and Keanu Reeves. Inception also has good old Juno herself, Ellen Page, and even Master Michael Caine, but I have to say that Marion Cotillard again wipes the floor with everyone else. She is mesmerising in every scene she's in, stunningly beautiful in a way that continues to defy the image of the dowdy sparrow she played to win the Oscar for La Vie en Rose.

But, like the Matrix, Inception is all about the perception of reality, and the power to manipulate the reality of others through their dreams. DiCaprio plays an expert in this mental field, though it appears, Matrix-like, that everyone involved in the business comes equipped with built in dream martial arts skills and expert weapons training. And, also like the Matrix, sometimes the rules can be broken, and there are perils about getting in too deep...

Sorry, it is probably unfair to compare it so much to the Matrix, as this film is, despite very similar kind of origins, very different. There are no creepy computers out to get us all, just greedy corporations trying to get ahead of the game and destroy the competition. And it is on one of these jaunts - well, a very extreme kind of jaunt requiring boldness and innovation and a movie to tell it - that our heroes get themselves into all sorts of fun as things go not quite according to plan. Of course.

The plans through are the thing, as the visual landscape (if Marion Cotillard is not on screen to distract you from it) is breathtaking. The attention to detail in the perception and reality-defying special effects is incredible, and unlike some films where the CGI is painful in its obviousness (yes, I am still looking back to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and shaking my head), it all looks real in a completely unreal way.

I also think I must be losing my hearing, or else the Embassy's wonderful bass speakers were impacting negatively on my auditory perceptions, as I found it incredibly hard to understand a lot of what was said. The soundtrack was engrossing and overwhelming, probably to try and keep up with the stunning visuals, but I found it sometimes detrimental to the experience when it drowned out the dialogue. No one else seemed so afflicted though, so perhaps it is just another sign of my developing deafness.

But, even if the sound system let me down (be it the Embassy's or my own), the giant Embassy screen was the perfect canvas upon which to display the film. Did I mention the visuals previously? Let me do so again: superb.

As for the story... well, the very final moments [possible spoiler alert] left almost the entire cinema groaning in its ambiguity. Everyone on the film seems utterly convinced by the plausibility of what they are saying - one of the benefits of having such sterling actors on screen - but really a lot of it just seems utter tosh: if gravity in one reality affects another parallel one, why does it not affect a third in the same way? I want to say more, ask morequestions about the logic, but I really can't without giving some of the revelations away, so I won't. Perhaps we can just debate this in a face to face encounter.

At any rate, despite - or possibly because - of the rave reviews, I was not as enamoured with Inception as I had thought I might be, and definitely did not experience the reported 9.2 out of 10 on the IMDB.com taste scale. It was brilliantly executed and realised, but, despite the splendour, there was still a sense of the "seen that" variety, which stopped the film from being, for me at least, quite the revelation, quite the rapture, that others seem to have experienced.

Verdict: An incredible feast to taste on a big screen, Inception's 2.5 hour running time fairly flies by as spectacle upon spectacle is thrust in front of the viewer's face. But the reality is that the film was not quite the dream that others
would have me believe, though perhaps if Marion Cotillard had been the heroine of the show, I would have been so entranced I wouldn't really have noticed. 8 totems out of 10.